This is our Top-Ten list for things everyone needs to know about grants! With these tips you will be better equipped to find and win a grant.
These tips are important to understand because so many people are confused about grants. Sometimes they think grants and federal aid are the same thing, which they are not.
Part of the reason it's important to know more about grants is to be able to avoid people who want to “help” you get grants - for a fee - when actually these grants either don't exist or are only available to government agencies or non-profit organizations.
We begin our list with the final tip:
- Number 10: There's no such thing as totally “free” money grants. Grants are free in that they do not have to be repaid, but they do include obligations which are absolute requrements. You must do the work necessary to find and win the grant. You must then proceed to successfully and scrupulously carry out the grant according to its specifications. If you are really looking for help because you need financial aid, see our page Federal Assistance in the United States.
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The remaining nine of our “Top Ten”! This is the most important information about Grants: (Note, for our current and recent Top Free Money Tips, take a look at Free Money 2018, Free Money 2017 and Free Money 2016!). Also check out Free Grants to better understand grants and what is free about them.
- Number 9: You need to know what type of grant you want in order to find one for which you are eligible. You definitely don't want to waste your time looking for or even applying for grants for which you do not qualify. Those who award grants say that lack of eligibility is one of the most common reasons that applicants don't win the grant. In addition to being sure your goals and the goals of the fund maker are a match, and taking care to confirm that you are in fact eligible for a particular grant, you must also do some specific research on on your own organization. We cant give you an thorough course in grant writing here, but we can point out the most important areas to research. And you can also find some great tips in our article about grant writing. First, be sure you understand well the resources and you need over the next year and what they will cost. Be prepared to document these needs and costs in a way that gives the grant giver confidence. Be able to explain well what you do and provide evidence that shows you know your budget and it is a reasonable one.
For fast help learning more, check out Types of Grants and Where to Find Them.
- Number 8: Though billions of dollars are awarded in grants and other aid, there is no central U.S. Government Grant Department. That may be hard to believe, but no single agency coordinates or manages all grants. There also is no single, simple application you find to simply fill out and have some agency give you money. The U.S. Government does however award billions of dollars in grants each year. Here you can take a look at the top ten grant-awarding agencies that award grants. This list has been recently updated to show the numbers for 2013 (previously the most recent data available was for 2009). The largest giver of grants was the Department of Health and Human Services; the smallest on the list was the Environmental Protection Agency. An interesting agency recently showed up for the first time: the “Agency for International Development”, coming in at $7.9 billion. We'll be doing some digging into that….
- Number 7: Because of the Federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there are new grants and new business to be had with the government. Check out our discussion of Federal Business Opportunities to discover more.
Be aware that this site is not for individuals but specifically lists opportunities for businesses. The good news is that because of the Federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act there should be more opportunities for businesses.
- Number 6: There are many websites that offer information for a fee. Be wary of these websites. Don't give private or sensitive information (like credit card numbers or your social security number) to someone you don't know and trust - ever! And be aware that you never should have to be a fee to apply for or receive a grant. We have had many instances of people receiving phone calls saying that they have won a grant and all they have to do is send in some sort of fee to get it. Just hang up!
Update September 2017: Please note that this situation has only worsened over the past several years. More and more people are reporting getting calls from people who claim to be with the government and say they are calling to let them know they have won a grant. The government is aware of this situation and have called on people to be very alert regarding such calls and not to let your guard down regardless of how official the caller sounds. Callers will often offer to give you a badge number to make themselves sound authentic. They are not with the government and you should give them NO information and certainly no money. You can find out more about how to protect yourself at Free Money Phone Call Scams.
- Number 5: Not all financial aid and other types of assistance come in the form of grants. Grants have a very narrow definition that makes them available only to specific organizations and individuals. The Pell Grant is one of the few “pure” grants out there that do indeed go to individuals for the purpose of paying for college or career schools. They are unique in that you don't really compete for them — you simply qualify (or not) based on your income. You can quicklysee if you might qualify at Qualify for a Pell Grant. On the other hand you can find all different kinds of help if you don't narrow your search only to grants. Two of our most poplular reviews are Free Tax Help and Fund a Startup Business. The Free Tax Help information should be especially important this year and next (2017 and 2018) due to the tax changes being implemented. Some of them will take effect for 2017 returns, some will not take effect until you are filling out information for 2017. But they are important to be aware of especially in areas like taking deductions for mortgage interest, whether spousal support payments are still deductible (they won't be for 2018 returns…) and more. Take any opportunity you can get to get some help and advice from experts…
Another resource that too many people looking for grants ignore is Scholarships! But scholarships are such a beautiful gift – money awards that never have to be paid back! And you don't have to be a whiz kid/straight A student to win one. There are literally thousands of scholarships out there and there's something for everyone. You can even win a scholarship based on pure luck! Discover more and see what's in it for you in Scholarship Contests and Scholarship Information.
- Number 4: Successful grant proposals contain common elements; learn what they are in Writing a Good Grant Proposal. For a basic and straightforward summary of grant writing tips, check out "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grant Writing" by Waddy Thompson.. And don't forget that you don't have to write a grant proposal yourself — sometimes it can be helpful to get professional assistance if you can afford it.
- Number 3: In order to win a real grant you don't just fill out a simple form with personal information. You typically need to write a really good grant proposal, following all the rules and guidelines spelled out by the grant giver. It can be a daunting task – and there are lots of professionals who will offer to help, often for a substantial fee. But with some effort you can do it yourself. Remember that you're asking someone to give you money that never needs to be paid back. Start with an overview about writing a good grant proposal. Once you understand the basics you can be on your way to winning grants.
Be sure your proposal is well organized, well written and is making a reasonable fund request. Also get great free advice and guidance from Non-Profit Guides, including tips and lots of samples. They do not sell anything or provide any kind of service other than what is provided on the website - just clear, concise, solid information. Kind of like us!
And here's a big bonus: not all grants require lengthy, well crafted proposals backed up with lots of data. Some require much less information and if you're a good match then you're in! Two great sources for grants for individuals that you don't have to jump through hoops to get are Travel Grants and Land Grants - be sure to check them out!
- Number 2: Winning an award is just the beginning - Congratulations! Be sure to follow through on the agreed grant contract: track finances carefully; provide necessary reports; meet all deadlines!
- Number 1: Grants.gov is the authority on grants sponsored by the U.S. Government. Get an introduction to it along with great tips for using it in our Review of Grants.gov. If you're an individual looking for help, you might want to read our article about why grants.gov may not be for you. But even if you are an individual – or a small business – or a non-profit, there still may be a grant you can find through this amazing web site. We've now updated our review of grants.gov to give you detailed instructions about how to search it in a way that will give you results very customized for you — and only grants you could be eligible for. So you don't have to wade through all the results that are just for government agencies. Be sure to check out our guide to grants.gov.
Have something else you think should be included in the Top Ten? Go to our Community Welcome page to become a user and share your thoughts! We value your input, questions and helpful answers.